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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Reclaiming the Flag

Reclaiming the Flag

The American flag is one of the most recognizable icons in the world; it is seen by many as a symbol for freedom and democracy and is the very embodiment of what America is, or at least should be. Some salute it, or display it proudly from their homes, cars, and chests, while in many places around the world others see the flag as something entirely different. To these people it is an object to be mocked, hated, reviled, and burned. As political tensions rise within the country, even Americans have become split over what the flag represents.

From now until April 13, the Harbor Art Gallery located on campus will host “Reclaiming the Flag”, an exhibit composed of more than twenty artistic renderings of the American flag by Boston area artist Jane Sherrill. Each work in the series is a combination of acrylic over torn sections of paper and collage using virtually every possible shade of red, white and blue in order to evoke the many passionate reactions that the flag has been known to cause. The whole exhibit feels like an intricately constructed visual essay on what the flag has come to mean to the artist. “I began using the American flag as subject matter soon after the attacks of 9/11/01,” Sherrill explains on her website, “I was trying to find my connection to a symbol that had come to stand for a political agenda I didn’t agree with, trying to reconcile my own conflicted feelings, to reclaim the flag and make it mine.”

The various compositions show the flag in different stages of apparent motion, fluttering proudly in one piece and sagging somber and heavily in another. Some show the flag in states that range from near implosion to virtual explosion; in one piece, old glory is torn to tatters and in another it is split in two only to be reconstructed again and again in each new painting. In Dripping (Wet) Sherrill’s flag seems as though it were bleeding from some unseen yet perceived wound. In Head First the flag seems to be in a hopeless free fall, while in Down it is being dragged down by some bleak and mysterious force. Paintings such as these seem to suggest a sense of mournful desperation and a possible hazardous future on the horizon for the freedom and democracy the flag is supposed to stand for. However, others give a sense of hope through the use of bright accent colors, which shine like a ray of sunlight bringing new possibility to the badly damaged, trampled and mistreated emblem of America. Such is the case in Sherrill’s Glow. “Regaining the Flag” is a powerful and thought provoking exhibit well worth visiting while it remains on campus. It will cause students to reexamine notions of patriotism and what the flag truly means.

The exhibit is labeled as “interactive” and, in a way, it is. A video is shown outside of the gallery that portrays veterans from the Joiner Center being interviewed about what the flag means to them.

The Harbor Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the McCormick building and is free to all UMass Boston students. To learn more about the artist and the exhibit visit www.janesherrill.com/reclaimingtheflag